Book: Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me
Author: Daniel Beaty
Illustrator: Bryan Collier
Age Range: 4-8
Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me, by Daniel Beaty and Bryan Collier, is about a boy who has a special bond with his father (illustrated by a game that they play in which the father Knock Knocks on the door each morning, and the son pretends to be asleep). One day, however, the dad stops coming. The boy's sense of loss is palpable. He leaves his father a note, hoping that perhaps he will come while the boy is in school. And eventually, he does receive a letter in response, a letter in which his dad spells out his hopes for the son's future. The items from the letter are accompanied by images of the boy growing up, and having a family of his own, gradually becoming more hopeful, but always missing his lost father.
The reason for the dad's absence is not spelled out in the text. However, in an author's note, Beaty indicates that the book was written in partial response to his own experience as a boy having his father incarcerated. He doesn't specifically spell that out as the boy's experience in the book, allowing Knock Knock to also speak to the experiences of kids whose fathers just leave, or even pass away. It is a very powerful story, one that too many children will be able to relate to.
I do not plan to share Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me with my own four year old. Right now, I don't want to even put the idea into her head that there are daddies who stop coming home. When she is older, though, I would certainly like her to read it. And I think it's an important book for kids who have experienced the loss of a parent, due to whatever means, and whatever their skin color and socioeconomic status. Although the dad doesn't ever come home in Knock Knock, the ending, showing the boy as a loving parent himself, is hopeful.
Beaty uses repeats of the "KNOCK KNOCK" to lend a certain lyricism to the text in the later part of the book. Like this:
"KNOCK KNOCK down the doors that I could not.
to open new doors of your dreams.
KNOCK KNOCK for me,
for as long as you become your best,
the best of me still lives in you."
In the earlier parts of the book, we hear the boy's voice more directly: "Papa, come home, 'cause I miss you." But throughout the book, we see the boy captured in Collier's watercolor and collage illustrations. His sadness as he looks at a hat of his father's, left on the kitchen table. His calendar, with the days of his father's absence crossed off. His stowing away of the precious letter from his father, next to a left-behind necktie.
Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me is a book that will stay with readers for a long time. It's an absolute must-purchase for libraries. It is not upbeat, and probably not for the very youngest of readers, but it is important, and recommended.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: December 17, 2013
Source of Book: Library copy, checked out for Round 1 Cybils consideration in Fiction Picture Books. All opinions are my own.
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